Needs Assessment: Phase II: Collecting Data


James W. Altschuld

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    Throughout the KIT, stress has been placed on a three-phase needs assessment process. From that perspective, Phase II (Assessment—Collecting Data) may not be necessary based upon what has been learned before. Don't automatically think that seeking new data in a second phase is the way to go. It is costly and time consuming and may not yield much additional information. The admonition is that you only enter into such work if it will be worthwhile.

    If more data are needed and a decision is made to go forward, there are many methodological options depending on the specific nature of the needs assessment, the content area or focus, and knowledge of what methods and information might be most persuasive and attended to in the setting. It would not be useful to try to cover all methods in this text, so a selected set of commonly employed ones (quantitative and qualitative) is profiled in some detail. The two types of approaches are important as needs may be complicated and best understood from the perspectives of numbers, perceptions, and value positions. The interplay of findings almost always leads to deeper levels of meaning.

    That being said, more methods require greater financial, time, and skill resources. Do the best you can in your assessment and consider adopting and/or adapting methods to fit what can be done within the local context and the parameters available to the needs assessment committee. It's not a perfect world, and flexibility in conducting assessments is essential.

    Also, you are strongly encouraged to search (even if only skimming) the literature for what others have done with related needs in similar organizations. What methods did they choose, what methodological twists have they implemented, what problems did they run into, how successful were their applications, what recommendations do they offer, and how could what they have done be applied to your needs assessment? There is much writing about methods that should be helpful; take advantage of it!

    As indicated in its title, this is Book 3 in the needs assessment KIT. The others are:

    • Book 1: Needs Assessment: An Overview
    • Book 2: Phase I: Getting Started
    • Book 4: Analysis and Prioritization
    • Book 5: Phase III: Taking Action for Change

    Reference, when appropriate in this text, will be made to other books in the KIT. If you need more ideas on how to implement an assessment, you are encouraged to consult them.


    Over the years, my work has been vastly improved by graduate students in my classes, doctoral candidates (now graduates) whom I was fortunate to guide through their studies and research, and other colleagues involved in numerous projects. Their insights and skeptical questioning often led to improved instrumentation and the collection of higher-quality data. Those contributions should be apparent in the numerous citations in the book. Barbara Heinlein as usual through her word-processing expertise, and keen eye made for a vastly improved text. In this regard, the help of Traci Lepicki and Stephanie Tischendorf is also appreciated. Thanks to all of these individuals for their kind and thoughtful assistance.

    One thing that I have never publicly done is to state appreciation for my deceased parents, Harry and Josephine Wodicka Altschuld, and their devotion to their children, my brother (Glenn), my sisters (Rae and June), and me. They came to the United States with little education to make a better life for themselves and to experience a world free of the persecution they had seen as members of a minority group in Europe. Everything that I and my siblings have accomplished stems from what they were able to achieve. With the humblest of love and respect, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    The author and SAGE gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Evan Abbott, Regis University
    • Ellen Darden, Concord University
    • Doug Leigh, Pepperdine University
    • Wendy Lewandowski, Kent State University
    • Steven E. Meier, University of Idaho
    • Jennifer Piver-Renna, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
    • Kui-Hee Song, California State University-Chico

    About the Author

    James W. Altschuld, PhD, received his bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry from Case Western Reserve University and The Ohio State University (OSU), respectively. His doctorate is from the latter institution with an emphasis on educational research and development and sociological methods. He is now professor emeritus in the College of Education and Human Ecology at OSU after 27 years of teaching research techniques and program evaluation. In evaluation, he developed and taught a sequence of courses on theory, needs assessment, and design. He has coauthored three previous books (two on needs assessment and the other on the evaluation of science and technology education), has written many chapters on needs assessment as well as others on evaluation research and issues, and has an extensive list of publications, almost all in the field of evaluation. He has given presentations and done work in five countries outside of the United States. In his career he has been the recipient of local, state, and national honors including the Alva and Gunnar Myrdal Practice Award from the American Evaluation Association for contributions to evaluation.

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